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To What Extent Are Economic Explanations Distinctively Mathematical?

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Abstract

Hardt argues that not only can mathematics be applied in various types of explanations but also that mathematics alone can explain. He thus asks, “To what extent are economic explanations distinctively mathematical?” By such explanations he qualifies reasoning of the following kind: why can somebody not distribute, for instance, 23 objects among 3 persons without cutting any? This is so because 23 cannot be divided evenly by 3. Here, the purely mathematical fact explains without any references to laws and causes. After analysing H. Varian’s (1980) model of sales and T. Schelling’s (1971) model of segregation, Hardt concludes that such explanations are rarely used in economics. However, he claims that they played an important role in making economics an axiomatized science and thus Hardt offers some insights into the history of formalization of economics, including the rise of Arrow and Debreu’s general equilibrium theory.

Keywords

Distinctively mathematical explanations Mathematization of economics General equilibrium theory Hal Varian Thomas Schelling History of formalization of economics 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Economic SciencesUniversity of WarsawWarsawPoland

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